May 30, 2012

‘LEO is a piece of crap’

The statement “LEO is a piece of crap” is not, in and of itself, all that shocking. Clearly I disagree with the sentiment, but I occasionally hear it from irate right-wingers or disgruntled readers.

But from the official spokesman for Dismas Charities? Now that was unexpected. Given the organization’s track record, however, I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Dismas is a Louisville-based nonprofit that runs halfway houses for criminal offenders, many of whom provide free labor to city agencies.

In recent years, Dismas has made headlines, not for its charitable work helping prisoners transition back to freedom, but for financial transgressions and tales of inmate misconduct, including drug use, theft, attempted rape and murder.

Several weeks ago, a source contacted LEO Weekly to relay concerns about the fact that the Louisville Zoo uses Dismas workers. Specifically, the source pointed out that Todd Duke — a Dismas inmate accused of attempting to rape a Kentucky Humane Society employee while on the job there — was previously assigned to the zoo.

In response to the tip, LEO staff writer Joe Sonka dialed up Dismas to inquire, and he was connected to Bob Yates, vice president of public relations for the charity. Sonka asked a couple of straightforward questions: “Was Todd Duke recently employed at the Louisville Zoo?” “Is there currently a Dismas program at the zoo?”

After initially responding with a terse “I don’t know,” Yates put our reporter on hold while he sought answers to these simple queries. Four minutes later, he returned, acknowledging that Duke had in fact worked at the zoo before being transferred to the Humane Society, and confirming that Dismas workers are still assigned to zoo.

Then Yates declared, “You’re not going to do it right anyways, because LEO is a piece of crap.”

When Sonka attempted to follow up later with additional questions, Yates indicated Dismas would no longer speak to LEO, prompting me to place a call to find out why. The response I got from Yates: “If you want to print something, you can just say that Dismas simply prefers not to respond to any inquiry from LEO.”

I suggested Dismas has a responsibility to address whether violent offenders are being assigned to city agencies, like the zoo, against city policy — a serious allegation. To that, Yates said, “And our resilience, our stance, is very serious, too… This is an issue dealing with LEO, nothing more. We’re not trying to diminish the importance of any story or any incident.”

Some spokesman. First of all, any entry-level PR class will teach you the importance of getting out in front of a potentially damning story — silence and denials only make matters worse. (Blatant insults are frowned upon, too.)

It’s not the first time Dismas has stonewalled LEO. But then again, why should a media outlet expect answers when Dismas also refuses to cooperate with lawyers, law enforcement and government auditors?

For example, when a wrongful death suit was filed following a murder at one of their halfway houses in 2008, Dismas denied the plaintiff’s attorney access to documents and staff. One employee testified that Dismas had a “chilling effect” on her ability to comply with the investigation. Court documents also reveal crucial surveillance footage was missing from videos turned over to police.

Then in 2010, Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen embarked on a review of the nonprofit’s lavish spending. “We believed there was a lack of cooperation in providing adequate information, adequate access to staff and adequate documentation,” Luallen told LEO when the audit was complete, adding that she believes Dismas officials think they are “not subject to public scrutiny.”

The audit was revealing, nonetheless, shedding light on exorbitant salaries (the CEO rakes in more than $600,000 in compensation annually) and extravagant expenditures (like $150,000 for suites at University of Louisville sporting events). All this at the expense of taxpayers, at a nonprofit aimed at “Healing the Human Spirit.”

Imagine what investigators might have uncovered had Dismas cooperated. For that matter, imagine how much more LEO might have learned about the prevalence of violent offenders at the zoo and, more than likely, other city agencies had Dismas been forthright.

But that’s obviously the Dismas game plan: Keep quiet and carry on.

We have a game plan, too: Uncover the truth, with or without their help. 

Tagged: Editor’s Note |

Wrong Impression

By caligirl845
Could it be that Dismas responded the way they did because they are tired of the one sided slant that is given to all of the stories the LEO publishes? Could it be be that they don't want to spin their wheels talking to LEO because LEO doesn't provide any facts except those that make the company look bad? You have to admit LEO doesn't publish a lot of good will type articles and instead seem to pride themselves on "exposing" the shortcomings of anything and anyone for the sake of "news". I mean really, the "what's trending" is getting out of hand when anyone can say anything about anyone and it be viewed as factual. Dismas is an excellent corporation that does great work on many fronts. How about trying to write a story to "expose" the positive things they do rather than trying to take them through the mud at every turn. They might just be more willing to want to talk to LEO reporters. No one is perfect, not even LEO "writers".

Investigative Journalism

By skelley (not verified)
As noted in this week's cover story, Dismas also refused to talk to the state auditor looking into wrongdoing at the nonprofit. They also failed to cooperate with investigators following a murder at one of their halfway houses. So, no, I don't think that their reason for not talking to LEO is that our coverage is slanted. I think they are silent because our coverage is accurate, and they have no legitimate defense. And if it's fluffy feature stories you are looking for, you might want to go elsewhere.

Responsible Journalism

By caligirl845
Responsible journalism means that one goes into investigating a story to seek the truth, not just the truth that supports how the writer wants the story to play out. Responsible journalists are objective. Fluff-no thanks; just the whole truth would be welcome. You mention the thing about other times of not cooperating - don't believe everything you read.

and when bob yates refuses to answer questions?

By bastardo
How do you find the truth then, callgirl? Bastardo

When Sonka attempted to

By bcklnks6
When Sonka attempted to follow up later with additional questions, Yates indicated Dismas would no longer speak to LEO, prompting me to place a call to find out why. The response I got from Yates: “If you want to print something, you can just say that Dismas simply prefers not to respond to any inquiry from LEO.” reviews

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